With the present British government greasing up support for the creepy EC Copyright Directive, a version of the US Big Brother internet snooping law (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), you might be forgiven for dismissing the issue of commercial spyware.
Scumware, it is commonly called.
What it does is install itself, virus-like, on your computer when you download programs - often a bit dodgy - you like the look of on the Web. KAZaa, successor to the popular Napster application of blessed memory for music fans, is one such program. Once installed, the scumware element starts reporting back your internet habits to the media company which has paid to have the spyware secretly downloaded.
You do have the option to de-install it but it is not obvious that it is there unless someone tells you about it.
KaZaa has been downloaded more than seven million times so somebody now has an interesting database. TopText, Gator and Surf+ are significant other downloads which install scumware.
Getting rid of scumware ain't very easy.
Check out the whole story at www. scumware. com.
Scumware is perfectly legal and that will not change because the big boys like the idea. Think of Microsoft's mooted Palladium security system (an even more sinisterly snoopy version of Windows XP) and the likelihood that US media giants will soon persuade Congress that they should control the web sites you visit. Both these are promoted in the name of protecting copyright. The aforementioned Deeply Malevolent Copyright Act is promoted in the name of fighting crime (and social control) - and is about to be copied by the Chinese and North Koreans. Read about it at www. eurorights. org and www. theregister. co. uk.
The only thing you can hang on to is the fact that practically every IT project Whitehall has tried to implement has been an incredibly expensive disaster.